Small Worlds

Yesterday, I find out that NCZ gew up in southwestern PA, and today I find out from Grognardia that William H. Keith (a friend-of-a-friend that I run into a couple of times a year) has published game material for Traveller. Even more interesting is the fact that one of the first Traveller adventures I ever bought ("Ordeal by Eshaar") was one of his first publication.

It's a small world, after all.


Once again, I find that I like TJIC's vision of how government should work much, much, much better than reality:
In my idea society, freeing a man from wrongful imprisonment by the state would be a high ritual: as soon as the pardon or appeal was read, trumpets would sound, cops would halt traffic so that the the governor and his retinue could march directly from the court house to the jail, ceremonial sledgehammers with carved ironwood handles would be used to break the hinges off the cage, the free man would be draped in a sumptuous cloak and have large over-boots fashioned out of bearclaws laced over his shoes, and then he would be led out of the cage, across the prostate backs of the original judge and any cop who testified in the case, as the trumpets continued to blow.

Public Service Announcement

Communism kills people.

There you have it - end of story. As Mr. Lane comments,
Marxism is intellectualism for stupid people; it tends to attract the sort who can’t understand that an economic system that cannot feed its own population reliably has failed at the game of Life. Literally.
Addendum: Just in case the point isn't entirely clear, I'll echo some choice comments on the subject of defending Communism from Billy Hollis over at Questions and Observations:
First, saying that their ideology produces results just as bad or worse as Nazism isn’t calling them a Nazi. It’s stating the clear truth.

But there’s an even better reason to treat their "creed" with complete contempt. Behaving otherwise makes their beliefs acceptable, even respectable, in academia.

Those beliefs should not be respectable. It’s time their ideology joined phlogiston, the luminiferous ether, phrenology, and Lamarkian biology in the historical gallery of failed concepts. They shouldn’t be coddled for believing in nonsense; they should be ridiculed for it.

Giving them any respect whatsoever means that get to continue to indoctrinate new generations in the same idiocy, meaning we still have the problem of academic idiots pushing an evil, failed ideology into the indefinite future.

Far better, I believe, to make it clear and obvious that their belief is not a respectable one.

Google - the Uncompany

Follow me here.

"Living" and "dead" aren't opposites - they are descriptions of time stages. You're not "dead" before you're born, right? There's a transition from one to the other.

The opposite of "living", really, is "unliving". As any SF/fantasy fan will tell you, that covers a lot of territory - robots, golems, elemental forces, intelligent gas clouds, the Great Old Ones. Things that may think, and which people might interact with, but which are not "living".

Likewise, the opposite of "dead", really, is "undead". The life cycle for a vampire, or a zombie, or a ghoul goes from living to dead to... well, they can't back up and become living again, can they? So they instead become "!dead", or rather, "undead".

Which brings me to Google.

Google, as you know, as the company motto, "Don't be evil". So, you can argue that Google, as a company, has the goal of being "not evil". And yet... while we're accustomed to seeing good and evil as opposites, really, they're not. You can be "not good" without being evil, and you can be "not evil" without being good.

So, by analogy... if "living" is to "good" as "not living" is to "not good", then "dead" is to "undead" as "evil" is to "not evil".

In other words: Google. Company of the Undead. As Jonathan Coulton says in "Re: Your Brains":

All we want to do is eat your brains.
We're not unreasonable; I mean, no one wants to eat your eyes!
Does that not describe Google? Hmmmmmmm?

Gotta go - there's some guys in white coats here who say they want to say hello.


  1. The government should tell people how to eat, exercise, etc.
  2. Why? Because unhealthy living choices drive up health care costs for everyone else.
  3. Why? Because the government ends up forcing health care organizations to care for those who cannot afford it themselves.
  4. Why? Because it would be cruel not to take care of them.
  5. But since this impacts health care costs... GOTO 1.

And We're Not Even Trying!

On the way to work this morning, I heard three news stories in series - the first about a tanker truck explosion In Ford City, PA that killed one man; the second about a chemical plant explosion in Cumberland, WV that killed two brothers; and the third, about a car bomb in Baghdad that killed two people.

After that, my first thought was, "Holy cow... we blow up more people every day, by accident, and we aren't even trying. We're supposed to be scared of these amateurs?"

Continuing to Fiddle

Bah. Formatting? What's that?

Blogger has apparently decided that my last two video links should be handled differently whether they are being shown on the main page or stand-alone. Which is still better than the original "we'll slop this around over whatever text happens to be on the page" theme I was using earlier... but not by much.

Let's see how smaller embedded clips fare:

Ah. Much better.

Shamus Young Rocks

As he himself describes it, this is a "... short bit about the internet history and technology, and how they're related to nuclear weapons."

It's short, sweet, and it explains how the internet as we know it today was "a really awesome accident".


Finally got annoyed enough at the old layout (primarily the main column width) that I went ahead and switched my template around.

Much happier now.


Via Coyote, Hans Rossling's "200 Countries, 200 Years, Four Minutes":

Coyote calls it a "commercial for capitalism". I'm thinking about Aretae's assertions about economic growth, individual liberty, and wondering... which is the chicken, and which is the egg?

I'm not really sure it matters.

A Thousand Here, A Thousand There...

In the past month, the NYC Board of Elections has turned up almost 200,000 "found" votes.

Yeah. 200,000. 200k. A fifth of a million. There were 80,000 uncounted votes discovered in Queens alone, and the total number of "found" ballots was almost more than the total number of voters from the Bronx and Staten Island districts.
“After a 16-hour day there’s room for error,” said Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections. “Poll workers have to take the report that prints out after the polls close, manually input that to a Return of Canvass form, and then it goes to the Police Department where civilian employees punch it into computers.”
Really? Really? Nearly 200,000 missing votes, and the only public response from the Board of Elections is to try and blame transcription errors?


I suppose there's little or no reason to question why said votes are skewed 2:1 in favor of the Democratic candidate for mayor, then. Or, say - how about that Working Families Party managing to do well enough to change their ranking on future ballots?
“Unbelievable,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party.
You know, I think Dan hit the nail right on the head, there.


Jonathan Coulton

Go. Listen.

Code monkey like fritos.


To quote Arlo Guthrie... "I'm not proud... or tired."

Well, maybe a little tired. A word this long takes it out of you.

Edit: of course, it should be spelled "enfunctionalizationisting". Same result. Let's call the first version the British spelling and be done with it.

Srs Bsns

Retweeting: it's srs bsns:
A retweeted joke has landed a Chinese woman in a labor camp for a year, Amnesty International reported Wednesday.

On the day of her wedding, Oct. 27, Chinese online activist Cheng Jianping disappeared. Only this week did her whereabouts surface: She had been detained and sentenced by police to a year of "re-education through labor" for retweeting a suggestion that Chinese youth attack the Japanese Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.
The BBC comments that "Ms Cheng may also have been targeted because she is a local human rights activist."

Gee, ya think?

Lately it occurs to me...

I just realized that most active military commanders - those who, essentially, have the power to level a small country - are pretty much limited to serving for less than 30 years. In addition, any misstep on their part - social, political, or military - can result in their removal from command, and discharge into civilian life.

Compare and contrast with 40-year political hack Charles Rangel.

Just sayin'.

Tapioca Minds in an Iron World

Mica, one of the authors of the original TSA bill, has recently written to the heads of more than 150 airports nationwide suggesting they opt out of TSA screening. "When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees," Mica writes.
Mica is someone who obviously failed to understand Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself... in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

What a coincidence!

How odd...

The government says one in five American adults suffered from mental illness during the past year. Most didn't receive treatment.

Before I even followed the link to read JWF's comments on the article, though, I was already thinking along the same lines as him.

Great minds, you know.

The Decline And Fall of California

Remember, unemployment in California has absolutely nothing to do with their policies.

A Christian Officer's Toolbox

A very interesting article from the Officer's Christian Fellowship discussing "A Christian Officer's Toolbox". It's an excellent article for anyone in a leadership position, military or otherwise; a good, practical reminder that while, as Christians, we are not of the world, we are definitely in the world. A world that needs our attention and prayer.

A Modest Proposal

Courtesy of the Czar, who muses over the viability of private unemployment insurance.

And if you think this is an unreasonable idea... a quick look at health insurance quotes shows me I can get a decent comprehensive health care plan for under $100/month. That's for a plan that I'm almost certainly going to use year-to-year. I've probably had a good half-dozen covered health expenses for my family in the past year, for example.

In comparison, unemployment insurance is - ideally - for catastrophic situations, which (hopefully) turn up infrequently. You just keep socking it away as an investment until such point as you need to start drawing on it, or cash it in entirely. Think of it as a 401(k) that you can access without penalty if you're unemployed for more than 2 weeks, and there you have it. Just another specialized investment fund.

Tam? Snarky? No!

Air Quality Alert: Heavy Smug.
It takes a special kind of hubris to wake up one morning and decide that what this world is lacking is your visionary leadership, and an even more perfectly-distilled narcissism to think that if millions of people don't like you, the problem is with all of them.

And So It Begins...

More as they come rolling, rolling, rolling in. I'm sure that after the election, we'll find a few uncounted crates of voting fraud stories here and there as well. Those uncounted crates do seem to show up with a startling regularity, don't they?

[ Updates as time rolls on. Articles are posted under the date I encounter them, not the date they are published. ]

  • No news. Well, not no news, but nothing to post as as I was busy acting as our local judge of elections. No issues, no contested votes, and an unusually high voter turnout, by the way.

Perparing for performance reviews

Erick over at RedState reminds you to start preparing to review your employee's performance.

You only have two years to decide if you want to keep them, after all.

Seen on Ann Althouse's site

Advice for our newly elected federal representatives:
Step One. Act like we are broke.

Step Two: Act like it is your fault.

Step Three: Repeat.


Violence against women is absolutely reprehensible.

Unless, you know, they're the right kind of women:

The magazine reported that the violent attacks by pro-abortion feminists left 50 women injured, and one hospitalized. The story was passed over by the vast majority of local and national news media.

It also detailed how pro-abortion groups sought to expel women who were identified as Catholics from a workshop in which the issue of abortion was debated, to keep them from voicing their opinions.

So nice to see the inherent misogyny of the left out in full force.

Drawing lines

Judge: Tea party and voter ID buttons can be banned from polling places

The Northstar Tea Party Patriots also want to wear t-shirts that read, “Don’t tread on me,” “Liberty,” “We’ll Remember in November,” and “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Markets” along with the tea party logo.

Attorneys for the government said the buttons and shirts could be construed as partisan. The judge agreed and dismissed the case.

OK. The last two designs mentioned? No problem - they are clearly partisan. However... a historical mottos concerning the unity of the American people and a simple noun? If you follow this reasoning, then answer me this question:
  • Which party is the party of unity?
  • Which party is the party of liberty?
  • Which party is the party of fiscal responsibility?
  • Which party is the party of limited government?
  • Which party is the party of free trade?
Which of course brings us to the questions:
  • Which party is the party of divisiveness?
  • Which party is the party of slavery?
  • Which party is the party of fiscal irresponsibility?
  • Which party is the party of expanded government?
  • Which party is the party of restricted trade?
Hmm. I wonder.


I guess if you can't stand behind your record, or your promises, or your convictions... you can at least smear someone who has nothing to do with anything relevant to your campaign!

Yeah. Pretty pathetic. Though, in all honesty, "pretty pathetic" would actually be a step up for Democrats this election season.

Come Wednesday

Feel no pity, no remorse. Moe Lane gives a few reasons why:
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate African-Americans.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate Latinos.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate gays.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate women.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate Jews.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate Muslims.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate the poor.
  • These people told their clients to say that you hate America.
Shall I continue?
  • These people told their clients to say that you were fascists.
  • These people told their clients to say that you were theocrats.
  • These people told their clients to say that you were stupid.
  • These people told their clients to say that you were uneducated.
  • These people told their clients to say that you were hatemongers.
  • These people told their clients to say that you were insane.
  • These people told their clients to say that you were violent extremists.
I can keep this going for quite a while, you know.
  • These people told their clients to call you unpatriotic.
  • These people told their clients to call you cowards.
  • These people told their clients to mock you at every opportunity.
  • These people told their clients to deliberately use a sexual slur when referring to you.
  • These people told their clients to trivialize and dismiss your concerns at every opportunity.
And now these professional Democrats are sad because they’re going to lose. Well, they deserve to lose. Because they’re bad people.

John Kerry's got a burr under his saddle

Kerry voices frustration with US political scene:

During his 45-minute speech, Kerry urged business leaders to support thoughtful candidates. And he urged voters to reject the ones who ignore facts.

Oh. we are, John. We are.

Take the time to read some of the comments on the article. Of course, you have to account for the source - these are from folks who live in a known hotbed of radical conservatism: Boston, MA.

"The electorate has a problem, its you, Senator Kerry."

"Talk about out of touch. According to Kerry, we citizens are too dumb to know how good these elitist politicians are for us."

"18 months after the Democrats took the reigns in both the Senate and House everything went into the toilet. "

"kerry has taken arrogance to a whole new level."

"I really wish Kerry was up for reelection this year."

Unintentional Bias

Though I haven't seen as much of it recently, the last election cycle had a lot of folks online pointing to PolitiFacts as an unbiased review of the claims and statements made by various politicians.

Frankly, I never liked the site very much - the few times I checked out some of their commentaries, I ran into obvious word-games and distortions. Nothing blatant, but they always seemed willing to give the benefit of the doubt to more liberal candidates, and more willing to hold conservative's feet to the fire. Much like the writers at do - if it's an article debuking Bigfoot's alien love affair, then I can be pretty sure I'm getting the straight scoop. Let politics enter the discussion, though, and you immediately have a 5-page deconstructionist analysis of why Hillary didn't really mean what she said.

So it comes as no surprise to see that bias again. What is interesting this time around is that it's been ferreted out and documented. For example:

In these latest examples the circumstances are virtually identical -- both candidates voted against a law they generally supported because the laws were overly broad and would have unintended consequences -- but the ratings applied are much more favorable to [the Democratic candidate].

Different editors, bad standards... or just an unintentional bias? Oh, well. I guess it's just another unrelated incident - completely coincidental, don't you know! Obviously the overwhelmingly right-wing media in the country are just trying too hard to overcompensate for their well-known favoritism of right-wing politicians.

Credit where credit is due...

For once, I can say that I absolutely agree with Nancy Pelosi:
Democrats haven't necessarily gotten the credit they're due for the work they've done the last two years, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.
Indeed, Madam Speaker.

Because if you did get the credit you're rightfully due, you and yours would have been thrown out of office by now. It's been some time coming, but we've got your "credit" wrapped and ready for delivery. Keep an eye out - it should be showing up November 2nd.

R.I.P, Freedom of Association

At least in Michigan.
A civil rights complaint has been filed against a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., who posted an advertisement at her church last July seeking a Christian roommate.

The ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths,” according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

"It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement," Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. "There are no exemptions to that."
Words fail me. Oh, wait - no, they don't.


The 2010 Election Cycle, Cystallized

Via Red State - loved their commentary on this video.

Hammer, Meet Nail

William A. Jacobson over at Legal Insurrection hits the nail on the head. Mara Liasson is an NPR reporter, who, like Juan Williams, also appears on Fox. A blogger for Media Matters commented on this vile situation:
I'm just saying that if you look at NPR's code of ethics, there's simply no way Liasson should be making appearances on Fox.
As Mr. Jacobson points out:
Notice something interesting.

No conservatives are trying to prevent people from appearing on NPR, but liberal interest groups and their media outlets are trying to prevent people from appearing on Fox News.
Yeah. Funny how that works out, eh?

Never ascribe to malice...

... that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

At least, until such point as you reach malicious stupidity.

Maybe there's a good reason why two-thirds of Americans no longer think they can believe what they hear from the media.

Nah. They must just be bitter clingers who don't understand the essential truthiness the media is conveying.

Let the purges begin!

Legal Insurrection on NPR's firing of Juan Williams.

Media Matters Comes Out of the Closet

Via Legal Insurrection:
Media Matters, the liberal activist group that wages a rhetorical war against Fox News Channel and others in the conservative press, will announce on Wednesday the receipt of a $1 million donation from the philanthropist George Soros.
Yeah. What was that recently about millions of dollars flooding into former and current political races from big business? Oh, well, Soros is different, I'm sure. Just like the SEUI is different. For any number of incredibly good (yet incredibly vague) reasons.

The American progressive left - elevating hypocrisy to an art form.

More Support For The Time Travel Theory of Modern Leftists

Oh, man. That Sarah Palin! Such an idiot!

Except, you know, when she's not.

Gotta hurt when the woman you ridicule as a know-nothing political hack has a better grasp of American history than you do.

Then again, given the learned ignorance of the "progressive" media, your average 5th grader is a stellar vision of political acumen in comparison.

A Proposal That Fits The Known Facts

Over at Dispatches From TJICistan is a clip of a government official talking about the expense of a $500 million light rail line in Detroit. At about 3:32, state representative Marie Donigan says:
“So we have a limited pool of money, is that what you’re saying? There’s only so much money ever? Well, obviously that’s not true!”
In the last month or so, there's been a marked increase in the number of... less than insightful statements like this one from Democratic leadership. In pondering this state of affairs, I can only come to one logical conclusion.

Obviously, the current crop of Democrats in local, state, and Federal government are sleeper agents.

No, not communist sleeper agents - that's so 1950's. Instead, I think that they are time traveling sleeper agents. They have come here from the future - a bright, happy, well-adjusted future where liberty and freedom are celebrated, where poverty and crime are aberrations instead of the norm. A future that was founded in the collapse of the still-born "statist revolution" in the US when the Democratic party imploded as a result of the 2010 midterm elections.

So they're here, at this pivotal time in history, to make sure that their future is preserved. How better to do that than by making sure that their operatives - now placed at every level of government - do what they've been trained and waiting to do all their lives?

Yes - in this election season; every unbelievable, upside-down statement from a Democrat that is seemingly willfully ignorant of the basic facts of life? That's a time-traveling libertarian from the future, opening their mouth and inserting their foot up to the knee. All for the cause of freedom.

Well, either that, or your average "progressive" Democrat is a drooling idiot barely capable of tying their own shoes.

Either one fits the facts, really.

The "Jews in the attic" test

Joe Huffman describes his test for laws that restrict freedom, asking: "Will this law make it difficult or impossible to protect innocent life from a government intent on their imprisonment or death?"

Ann always leaves the best for last

Via Ann Althouse, who has a lot of criticism for the President's answer to a question about DADT. What really caught my attention was a comment at the end of the post, though, where se quotes a comment made during the Q&A session:
"But I do have an obligation..."
Oh? And what, pray tell, Mr. President, is that obligation?
"... to make sure that I’m following some of the rules."
Note that.

Not "... to make sure that I'm following the rules." Apparently, there are rules that you don't have to follow. Well, no - I'm sure that you and I will have to follow them. Not following all of the rules is just something that the special people apparently get to do.


Bliss? Or Malice?

Via An NC Gun Blog : "Why ignorant people should never make law".

Though I have to disagree with the author. I don't believe that his opponent in this mini-debate was ignorant. I think that the vast-majority of "professional" gun control advocates are, in fact, well aware of the facts they mis-represent and mis-apply.

In other words, they know the truth - and they choose to lie.

A Day in The Life

I've spent the day banging my head against ELF link loaders, pthread implementations and C runtime code, and the various interactions therein. While it wasn't fun, per se, it was interesting... and now that I think I've finally managed to get some indication of what the problem I'm trying to solve actually is, I'm a whole lot happier.

The actual solution (or attempt at a solution) for said problem will have to wait until tomorrow. What gets me is that, if I'm understanding things correctly, what I'm seeing is an already-known, diagnosed, and worked-around problem. Getting to that point, though, was a matter of digging through things until I realized what the appropriate search terms for my questions were...

... at which point, Google was nice enough to take me directly to the online change log for the piece of software in question. You know, the place that - if I had really been on the ball - I would have looked at first to see if there was a solution to this problem.


Well, at least I know more about certain subjects than when I started the day...

(In my defense, I was under the impression that we were using the absolute latest revision of the software, and that looking in that direction for a possible fix wouldn't have turned up anything useful. I still should have tried, though. It's the software equivalent of making sure the power cord is actually plugged in.)

Quote of the Day

Shamus Young gives you the skinny on what code reuse really means, which includes the following gem of a line:
"RaymondSort files are written in ANSI C and a profane variant of Esperanto."

These are the days of miracle and wonder

An note on an Apple patent application - not otherwise interesting except for the following comment:
As devices continue to shrink, certain physical features become limiting factors for further size reduction... the thickness of the devices appears to be approaching the limits imposed by the need to accommodate the headphone jack.

There are, indeed, the days of lasers in the jungle...

Interesting Take on Tea Party Organization

Via Q&O:
There is no TP "president", no "treasurer", no "communications director". In fact, the movement is a collection of hundreds, if not thousands of local TPs which identify with the movement as a whole.
I'm intrigued. While I'm sure there's parallels between other organizational entities - revolutionary cells, for one, come to mind - there's a long history of independent Baptist churches in the US that have the same sort of loose structure. You can probably draw some correlations between the Tea Party organization and the decentralized "organization" of the internet, as well... probably more so, in that the TP organization seems to be based more or less on modern social networking and communication mediums.

Some blog, or blogs, out there right now are on their way to becoming the Tea Party version of The Federalist Papers.

It's Snarky Thursday, Apparently.

Ghettoputer of the Gormogons, on news that one of Senator Barbara Boxer's advisors was arrested for trying to bring marijuana into a Senate office building:
The discovery that Sen. Boxer's senior economic adviser is a stoner gives much-needed context to the Democrats' disjointed, nonsensical economic belief system.
Moe Lane over at RedState helps us further understand the situation:
      Now, I will not pretend that I do not have a certain rough sympathy for the fellow, coupled with a healthy contempt for his underlying arrogance. As someone privately commented to me on the matter, it must be pretty bad having to got to work for a Senator like Boxer every day: you’d almost need a painkiller.

      Tam on Home Buying

      Buying a house is merely exchanging cash for a dry place to keep your stuff; it is not a magic "wealth building" slot machine... If you want to actually generate real wealth, you need something more than some dirt with a box on it.
      Tam @ View From The Porch. Fifty-five gallon drums of snark laced with real insight, all served up at reasonable prices.

      Absence of Evidence

      I'm thinking, right about now, that I need to hit the bookstore and by every iota of writing by Mike Flynn that I can get my hands on.

      SF theologian. I love it.

      I'm thinking about changing banks...

      Well, I really wasn't. Then I saw this.

      Chappel Hill Bank - any plans to open an office in Pittsburgh?

      100 SF Books ... to start with

      I just came across mention of this list of 100 science fiction novels everyone should read. In keeping with the current meme, here's the list, with the books that I've read in bold. Yes, I'm a geek - though not much of one, apparently, only clocking in at 58%. One the other hand, I've got a list of apparently good books that I've managed to miss. And on the gripping hand, I'm able to make classic SF references with the best of 'em, so at least I can fake it when in the company of those who are more geekier than thou.

      I'm surprised at the inclusion of some novels on this list. I wouldn't consider Ayn Rand, for example, to show up. On top of that, there are authors that are suspiciously absent from the list. In terms of classic SF - come on, there's absolutely no mention of Clifford Simak, Jack L. Chalker, Roger Zelazny, David Drake, Sheri S. Tepper or Lois Bujold. In terms of more modern SF, names like Ian M. Banks, C. S. Friedman, Alastair Reynolds, and Glenn Cook are suspiciously absent.

      Hence the title of the post. This list might be an interesting starting point, but there's a much, much greater world of really good SF out there than what is represented here.
      1. The Postman – David Brin
      2. The Uplift War – David Brin
      3. Neuromancer – William Gibson
      4. Foundation – Isaac Asimov
      5. Foundation and Empire – Isaac Asimov
      6. Second Foundation – Isaac Asimov
      7. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
      8. The Long Tomorrow – Leigh Brackett
      9. Rogue Moon – Algis Budrys
      10. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
      11. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
      12. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
      13. Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
      14. The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke
      15. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
      16. Armor – John Steakley
      17. Imperial Stars – E. E. Smith
      18. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
      19. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
      20. Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
      21. Dune – Frank Herbert
      22. The Dosadi Experiment – Frank Herbert
      23. Journey Beyond Tomorrow – Robert Sheckley
      24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
      25. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
      26. Valis – Philip K. Dick
      27. A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick
      28. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick
      29. 1984 – George Orwell
      30. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
      31. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
      32. The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
      33. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
      34. The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G. Wells
      35. The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
      36. A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
      37. Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
      38. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
      39. A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
      40. From the Earth to the Moon – Jules Verne
      41. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
      42. Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
      43. Nova Express – William S. Burroughs
      44. Ringworld – Larry Niven
      45. The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
      46. The Unreasoning Mask – Philip Jose Farmer
      47. To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer
      48. Eon – Greg Bear
      49. Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
      50. The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton
      51. Lightning – Dean Koontz
      52. The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison
      53. The Fifth Head of Cerebus – Gene Wolfe
      54. Nightside of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
      55. A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
      56. Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
      57. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
      58. The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
      59. Solaris – Stanislaw Lem
      60. Doomsday Book – Connie Wills
      61. Beserker – Fred Saberhagen
      62. Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
      63. The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin
      64. The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
      65. Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany
      66. Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany
      67. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
      68. The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
      69. Star King – Jack Vance
      70. The Killing Machine – Jack Vance
      71. Trullion: Alastor 2262 – Jack Vance
      72. Hyperion – Dan Simmons
      73. Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein
      74. Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
      75. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
      76. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
      77. More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
      78. A Time of Changes – Robert Silverberg
      79. Gateway – Frederick Pohl
      80. Man Plus - Frederick Pohl
      81. The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
      82. Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
      83. The Execution Channel – Ken Macleod
      84. Last and First Men – W. Olaf Stapledon
      85. Slan – A. E. van Vogt
      86. Out of the Silent Planet – C. S. Lewis
      87. They Shall Have Stars – James Blish
      88. Marooned in Realtime – Vernor Vinge
      89. A Fire Upon the Deep – Vernor Vinge
      90. The People Maker – Damon Knight
      91. The Giver – Lois Lowry
      92. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
      93. Contact – Carl Sagan
      94. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
      95. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
      96. Battlefield Earth – L. Ron Hubbard
      97. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain
      98. Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
      99. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney
      100. Planet of the Apes – Pierre Boulle

      The Leftward View of Religion

      I think TJIC hits the nail on the head:
      Religion is supposed to be a cute accessory, and thus it can be tolerated in that sense.
      Urban planning, on the other hand, is next to godliness, and anyone who doesn’t believe in that is a true heretic.

      Bible Translation Worries

      An interesting article over at the Velveteen Rabbi on the perils of Bible translation.

      For another example, Hoffman cited Psalm 23: "Adonai is my shepherd; I shall not want..." What does a shepherd look like? "Dirty guy in a sheepskin," someone offered. In our minds, he's a loner with a crook, wearing shmattes -- "not a people person!" But in antiquity, shepherds were brave, mighty, and regal. The opposite of what we think of when we think of shepherds now. "Back then, it would have been John Wayne!" Shepherds were like the Marines are in our consciousness today. So while ro'eh literally means shepherd, the English word has all of the wrong connotations. "When we read that line as 'the Lord is my shepherd,' we're missing the point." Shepherds weren't meek. They had extraordinary power. Picture a six-foot-six musclebound guy cradling a tiny lamb.

      The Look

      Saying prayers tonight with my oldest and youngest (middle sister gets to stay up for a special night with Mama :-) I started tickling my oldest, who - since she's pushing 11, now - stoically refused to laugh. My youngest caught on, and told me, "You can't make me laugh, either!"

      "Pfft," I said. "I can make you laugh just by looking at you."

      "No you can't!"

      I give her The Look.

      One second.

      Two seconds, and she's giggling hysterically.

      Three seconds, and she's laughing out loud.

      Kissed her on the forehead, and told her, "Can too!"

      Some days, it's just good to be Dada.

      The Numbers Game

      Take a look at this page on Wikipedia. It shows US federal tax revenue by state. The interesting figure is at the bottom of the table: total revenue per-capita of $8,528.22.

      Let's imagine that we got rid of a huge swath of government programs - entitlement programs, mostly. Including things like medicare, medicaid, social security, and the like. Let's be optimistic and imagine that we can pare the government down to 20% of it's current size. (Actually, I think that's pessimistic, but bear with me).

      20% of $8,528.22 is $1705.64. So we're imagining we can run the federal government for a year at a cost of $1705.64 per person.

      That leaves $6822.58 per person that's collected each year in excess income taxes. Not per filer, per person. Just to keep things simple, let's round that number down to $6000. Now imagine that congress, instead of doling out tax receipts to whatever organization promised it the most votes, still collected taxes... but at the end of the tax year, everybody - every man, woman, and child - got $6000 back.

      That's almost 2 trillion dollars fed back into the economy every year, year after year. That's one heck of a stimulus. It will never fly, of course - you're too ignorant to be trusted spending your own money. You'd probably just fritter it away on food and health care instead of the important things in life, like artwork.

      It could be worse... oh, who am I kidding.

      Larry Correia lays it out for us here:
      I’ll say this for Russia. I’ve actually got more respect for Vladamir Putin than I do for Barack Obama. Now don’t get me wrong. Putin is super-villain evil. I’m not saying he’s good in any way, but I can respect ruthless strength. Barack Obama is a flailing pansy in comparison. Putin takes his shirt off to skin bears. Obama holds Paul McCartney concerts. Putin has executed dissidents and kung-fu fought MI-6 agents in a secret volcano base. Obama gets cranky and whines whenever people dare question him. Putin uses his cyborg laser eye to vaporize people who dare question him, and then he goes back to his harem of sexy KGB seductresses with codenames like Iron Maiden and Black Widow. Sadly, Russia’s leader would kick our leader’s ass in a fight, and that’s just sad. They’ve got the final boss fight from a Chuck Norris movie and we’ve got Steve Urkel.

      Oh, those EEEEVIL Quakers!

      Via God and Country, regarding the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's response to Christian aid workers charged with proselytizing in Afghanistan:
      She said they were “dominionists,” despite the fact that neither of the two organizations espouses a “dominionist” theology. Like Weinstein himself, Burton assigns religious beliefs to those whom she sees fit, regardless of what those people or organizations actually believe. This enables her to continue the MRFF contention they are only “at war” with a “specific sect” of Christians; it’s just that the MRFF gets to determine who is actually in that sect.
      ... the “sect” they are “at war” with includes the Quakers (who, in Burton’s words, are apparently “willing to use force” to achieve “world domination.” Who knew?).
      Amusing. The more I hear about the MRFF, the more I'm convinced that they have to be some kind of avant-garde performance art troupe, the religious/political analogue to the Washington Generals. Because the alternative - that there are people running around who seriously think that Quakers are espousing a doctrine of world domination through force - is just too painful to think about.

      Arise, OS/2! ARISE!

      Linux Journal is reporting a rumor that IBM may be considering resurrecting OS/2.

      Why is Linux Journal interested in this?

      Well, there's not a whole lot of technology in OS/2 that's relevant today. If IBM were to take the existing OS/2 code base, and try to pull it into the 21st century, it would be a major undertaking. Lots of people, lots of money, and lots of risk.

      On the other hand, if IBM were to take an existing OS that is easily customizable and well known - say, Linux - and extend it to support an OS/2-like user space, that would probably be much simpler. Fewer people, less money, less risk.

      Hmm. An IBM-branded and supported "Linux" distribution branded as OS/2? That would be interesting. I used OS/2 in a past life (back in 1994 or thereabouts), and really liked it. Linux with an OS/2-like user space would be a wonderful thing. If they can toss in Windows app compatibility using Wine or something similar, it might just make a dent in the marketplace.

      President Christie?

      The more I see, the more I like.

      Addendum: Apparently, I'm a reverse psychic. Christie asserted that he will not run for president in 2012, explaining:
      “‘Cause I’m not crazy, that’s why,” he said after touring a warehouse in Paterson... "I will be governor of New Jersey for the next four years. And I have absolutely no interest in running for president of the United States. None. Zero interest. Zero. None. Close the door. No chance. No way. Under no circumstances. I don’t know any other way I could put it. No hope, don’t try to talk me into it, nothing. Forget it. I’m staying here."
      Competent, conservative, committed, and actively uninterested in the job. Perfect qualifications for a president.

      You want the truth?

      You can't handle the truth. Even though it's the same now as it was almost 15 years ago.

      New media success in a nutshell:
      My page isn't better than yours, my life isn't more interesting. You just don't have my friends, and they'd rather be nice to me than to you.

      Right vs. Wrong

      It occurs to me that the vast majority of what passes for "debate" on the internet boils down to "I'm right, and you're wrong. Because I'm right." In advanced cases, there may be some gratuitous use of carefully selected facts in an attempt to justify one's position. Ultimately, though, that's all it is - justification. "This is what I believe, and if you don't agree with me, then you're wrong."

      I've seen it too often, in too many forums and venues, for it to be coincidence. I've seen it in people arguing about politics, copyright, game design, literature, science, and religion. It's an observation that I think would hold true whether we were discussing classical Greek etymology or the latest Pokemon game for the Nintendo DS.

      Sigh. Sometimes, I think everyone in the world just deserves a good kicking, you know? And, well, if you don't agree with me on that... you're wrong.


      It's important to share the intimate details of your life - with your spouse, with your family, with your closest friends. Little details of your hope, dreams and past that only they know about you.


      Well, for one thing, doing so allows for the development of a closer, more personal bonds. But mostly, it's so that when you have to travel back in time to stop the zombie raptor invasion of 2012, you'll be able to convince them that yeah, it really is you.

      What, exactly, is the purpose of government?

      From Aretae:

      Because the interests of the elite do not match the interests of the whole of society, the natural flow of governance is for elites to aggregate ever more power, and the populace to become ever more immiserated....

      The depressingly elegant thing about this is that the game theory is stable. Take the folks who make decisions, build as small a stable coalition as you can, and divide the spoils among the small coalition. It's as inexorable a solution as gravity, given power politics.

      This is what governments do when they can. The core challenge of government is how to prevent that.

      Synthetic Gemstones

      A couple of years ago, I picked up a small treasure-chest like box at a yard sale... my idea was to put together a treasure hunt for my girls and their friends. Since we live on a farm, I was thinking that we could make it a real treasure hunt... put together an "old" map, a story about a revolutionary war treasure hidden in the hills, toss in some clues, and voila! - let the kids go to town searching for the lost treasure.

      The chest got shelved, and nothing really came of it. Until this summer, when the Geek Dad blog did a short article on "Treasure Hunting with Secret Codes". Hmmm... I've got the chest, I've got some idea of a story to tell; what else would we need? Well, treasure, of course!

      Enter, stage right: Penhec Gems.

      So... they're not cheap gems; but they are gems. Chemically speaking, of course. Some snobs would insist that unless you pried them out of the cold, dead earth yourself, they're not real gems. To these troglodytes, I say, "Bah!" If it looks like a ruby, feels like a ruby, and tastes like a ruby, man, it's a ruby. Ahem.

      Anyways - I'm thinking that a few large gems (say, one per kid participating), a couple of handfuls of smaller gems, a bunch of loose quarters, and some "gold" Sacajawea dollar coins would make a fine treasure for a bunch of kids to find. It might end up being $100-$200 in "treasure", but if we did it right, it would be the kind of thing that the girls would make for some really wonderful memories.

      Quote of the Day

      From Moe Lane, over at Red State:

      Yes, I know that technically TARP is a Bush-era program. Guess what? Bush. Isn’t. Here.
      I think I need to develop a habit of interrupting anyone who mentions Bush with those last five words. "Guess what? Bush. Isn't. Here."

      Did I miss the point?

      Via Geekdad:
      Piracy is illegal! We let you into this review with your cell phones, but if anyone pulls one out, even just to check the time, and I see the screen, I will kick you out of this story! ... Because shaking phone-camera pix of a movie screen will take food out of the mouths of Hollywood movie studio executives.
      I'm sure there's a negative aspect to piracy as well, but he never gets around to mentioning it.

      A quote from a favorite author...

      If I recall correctly, this is one the the basic tents of Kyfho, from F. Paul Wislon's outstanding novel, "An Enemy of the State":
      Never initiate force against another. That should be the underlying principle of your life. But should someone do violence to you, retaliate without hesitation, without reservation, without quarter, until you are sure that he will never wish to harm - or never be capable of harming - you or yours again.
      Something that, apparently, the Israelis once knew... but have since forgotten.

      I Mourn for the Republic

      Apparently, blog spam using the names of current celebrities is about 20x more effective in increasing traffic than a direct reference on a popular political blog.


      I send a note off to Ghettoputer over at the Gormogons, because I thought he'd find my snarky comment from yesterday mildly interesting.

      And I get a whole post in reply, where he does, in fact, explain the difference between public sector unions and private companies. The unclear intent of my original comment was an attempt to imply that public sector unions are, superficially, no different from public companies. 'Puter does an excellent job of showing that there are differences, and why they matter.

      At which point, I have to admit that (a) he's far, far, far more erudite than I am, and (b) he makes excellent points regarding source of capital. Oh, and (c) he's probably better looking than I am, too, dagnabit.

      An interesting comparison

      Via the Gormogons, in an post on public teacher's unions:
      Unions have but one function: improve their members' wages, benefits and work conditions at all costs.
      Compare this to the statement:
      Public companies have but one function: improve their investor's earnings.
      Explain to me how the two statements are fundamentally different, and how we can hold one voluntary organization of individuals who are primarily concerned with making money to be better or worse than another voluntary organization of individuals who are primarily concerned with making money.

      It's Alive!

      Page hits are up nearly 400% in the last 12 hours (from 4/day up to 19/day, woohoo!) with the search terms for the last day showing me that we've had people hit the blog looking for:

      1. jon stewart (6)
      2. glenn beck (5)
      3. bianca kajlich (2)
      4. anna malova 3/2010 arrest (1)
      5. john stewart glenn beck kennedy (1)
      6. jon stewart glenn beck (1)
      7. jon stewart slams glenn beck (1)
      8. power to become the sons of god (1)
      9. taylor momsen (1)

      Not a whole lot of damage there. But look! Now I've mentioned Taylor Momsen, Jon Stewart, Glenn Beck and Bianca Kajlich twice in one day, in two different posts. That's got to be worth something, you'd think. I'll have to check back tomorrow.

      I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed that nobody seems to care about John Travolta's poor dog, though.

      Jon Stewart Slams Glenn Beck

      In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that while I did not write that title, neither did Taylor Momsen (whoever, or whatever, that is). Why am I blathering about Jon Stewart, Glenn Beck and Taylor Momsen? Call it an experiment.

      Quite frankly, there should probably be some other juciy tags in here besides Steward, Beck and Momsen (again - who? No, don't tell me, I have a feeling I don't want to know). Apparently Anna Malova is popular these days, too. No, she wasn't on Dancing With the Stars; instead, she's apparently some Russian supermodel or some such who got arrested on drug charges. Wow - who would have ever thought... nah. I'll leave the sarcasm to Glenn Beck and John Stewart (and Taylor Momsen, whoever that may be).

      Let's see, what else is out there - oh, there's Campbell Brown who's apprently no longer attached to CNN because of bad ratings. I guess that John Stewart and Glenn Beck are really eating their lunch, eh? Other big news of the day includes the fact that John Travolta and Kelly Preston's dogs were killed in a tragic accident at an airport, where they were run over.

      Gosh, I can see how that riveting piece of news can even eclipse the fact that Kelly Preston is apparently pregnant again. Or the attack on the Bagram air base, or the PA 2010 election results (hey hey hey, goooodbye Arlen Specter! Yeah! You got creamed by someone who sounds like a refugee from the Land of the Lost, buddy boy!) Buried somewhere in the news is the fact that Mary Richardson Kennedy (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s, wife) was arrested for drunk driving. No indication about whether she was at the airport where John Travolta and Kelly Preston's dogs were killed in a tragic accident, though.

      To wrap up this execrable stream of consciousness, I should point out that I have really no idea who Chris Dudley and Christa Miller are, though I think that Bianca Kajlich is.. nope, no idea who she is, either. I'm sure that John Stewart, Glenn Beck and Taylor Momsen know, though! All I can guess is that they'd never end up on Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Looser, or Deadliest Warrior.

      There. That's a good bit of searchable text loaded with random headline-grabbing keywords and search terms. Let's see how hard Google bites on it now!

      Most Excellent

      Mike Flynn's "De moralitate atheorum" - a most excellent an (for me, at least) timely article on reason and faith. Given that I've spent the last few days contemplating and studying this topic, it's a definite win for me.

      Mike's the author of the award-winning science fiction novel Eifelheim, which was a wonderfully entertaining and interesting book. I particularly appreciated portrayal and explanations of medieval Christian beliefs and reasoning. Oddly enough, I was reading his blog long before I realized he was an author. It was strange to realize that this random guy on the internet who's writing I appreciated was the same guy who wrote the novel I had just finished.

      While there are many SF and fantasy authors that I think I'd enjoy chatting with (or arguing vehemently with, in some cases), Mike's definitely moving himself to the top of the "genuinely interesting and charming persons" list.

      Postscript: I wanted to check my facts before commenting further... and indeed, Mr. Flynn is a fellow Pennsylvanian. It's a big state, so I can hardly claim that he's a neighbor. Despite that, I can be happy that this geographic coincidence (ever so slightly) increases the chances of someday being able to enjoy his company around a campfire some lazy summer evening.

      Image is everything

      "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." - Genesis 1:26

      For those who don't know, I teach a weekly Bible study at a (somewhat) local Veteran's Center as part of our church's ministries. We just finished up a study of the book of Malachi, and started in on an examination of what it means to be "made in God's image".

      The Hebew word used for "image" in Genesis 1:26 is tselem (צלם) - meaning image or likeness. It's used in the OT to speak about representative images - idols of false gods, for example; or for statues or other items that are the representations of real things.

      The Hebrew word used for "likeness" in the same passage is dĕmuwth (דמות) meaning... well, likeness. Another translation is "similitude", meaning a similarity or resemblance to something else. In engineering, a model is said to have similitude with what it's supposed to be modeling if it behaves the same way under stress. So a model bridge will ideally demonstrate similitude with a real bridge, in that when similar forces are placed on the model and the real bridge, they will react the same way.

      These two ideas give us a good indication about what the Bible says about man being created "in God's image". We are like God, in some essential ways. We were meant to be a representation of God, and to react to things the way that God reacts to them.

      We spent last week taking about what this doesn't mean. I don't think that "made in God's image" means that God has two arms, two legs, one head, eyes, ears, a nose, etc. Simply put, that's ridiculous. If God has a body, where was it before He created the universe? Yes, the Bible uses figurative language to describe God as if He had a physical body, but I think that's clearly metaphorical and poetic.

      More to the point, God created man and woman in His image. Genesis 1:27 says that, "So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." I think it's pretty clear that mankind, represented by man and woman, are created in the image of God. Since there are some rather distinct physical differences between men and women (thankfully!), there must be some way other than the merely physical that we are created "in the image" of God.

      Finally, in a related passage in the NT, we're told that the ultimate promise of God to every person who puts their faith in Jesus Christ is that they will be "conformed to the image of His son" (Romans 8:29). Since this promise applies to all believers, you either have to think that all Christian women are eventually going to end up as Jewish males, or maybe - just maybe - there's some other meaning of "image" here that we're supposed to understand.

      So, what other ways are we "made in the image" of God? Well, we're rational, thinking beings. In Isaiah 1:18, the Bible says, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD..." God thinks, we think. We're not only capable of reason, but God has made us capable of understanding His reasoning. That's one way that we're made in His image.

      We're also made in God's image emotionally. God loves us, and sent His son to redeem us. God gets angry at sin. God sorrows and grieves. So, there's another way we're made in His image - we feel the same emotions that God does (and more besides, unfortunately... pride, envy, covetousness).

      Then there's individuality. As human beings, we all have a strong sense of self. We know who we are; we are aware of our own being. That may not seem to be very significant, but it's emphasized over and over again in the scriptures that we are, each one of us, individuals. God doesn't care about mankind as a whole, except in so far as he cares about each and every man, woman, and child as an individual. Every person is important to Him, and our individuality and sense of self is, I think, a reflection of the image of God.

      Then there's relationally. God said, "Let us make man in our image..." back In The Beginning. There are lines of relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and lines of submission: the Son yields to the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit yields to the will of the Son. When God creates mankind, He creates man and woman, intending from the start that there be a relationship between them. As human beings, we establish relationships with God, with His creation, and with the other men and women in the world.

      There's more, of course. Intellectually, emotionally, individually, relationally, though, we're made in the image of God. I expect we'll have some interesting times at the Bible study in the next few weeks as we continue to explore what the Bible says about how we're made in God's image, and how understanding that will affect our day to day lives.

      Open Source is Hard

      I'm a very lucky guy, in that for the last 17 years or so, I've been gainfully employed as a software developer. Or, to put it another way, for 17 years, I've managed to reliably get people to pay me to play with computers all day.

      That's pretty awesome.

      You know what else is pretty awesome? Open source software (OSS). Software that folks like me have developed, and then given away for other people to use. Throughout my career as a software developer, I've been using OSS in one form or another. This has included stuff like the Apache web server, Cygwin, Linux, FreeBSD, gcc, and a whole host of other neat stuff. I spent five years working for a company that was pretty much built on top of OSS, and my current company is also heavily invested in the same (FreeBSD, specifically).

      I say all that as a prefix, just to let you know where I stand. I like OSS, it's really amazingly cool, and it's been my bread and butter for a good portion of my adult life.

      That said... OSS is also hard.

      Not necessarily hard to use, mind you, though there are software packages that are... um. Less polished than others. Not even hard to customize, change, or even fix when something goes wrong. That's what my employers pay me to do, after all - I'd be doing it one way or another, with open source or without; and if my choice is between spending 3 days tracking down and fixing a bug in some OSS package, vs. spending six months writing something from scratch that will have new and unique bugs, well, I know which one I'm picking.

      Here's the rub: in a lot of cases, there's a desire to give something back- specifically, to contribute code to a project that you've been using. After all, someone's given you something for free - it would be downright churlish to not reciprocate, don't you think? So a lot of developers who use OSS are more than willing to contribute back to the projects that they work with.

      There's a lot of motivation to do so, to. Personally, there's professional credit - being able to point at a project like the Linux kernel, and say, "I contributed to that." In terms of my employers, there's always been a simplicity motive as well. If we fix a bug in or add a useful feature to something we're using, then contribute it back to the original project, we're actually gaining something. We now have software that does what we want, the way we want, and we don't have to maintain it ourselves. When the next version of the OSS software is released, it will (hopefully!) have our changes in it, and that's that - we can just download it, install it, and use it.

      Here's why I'm writing: some people really don't understand what goes on in the gap between "Gee, we'd like to contribute this change to project Foo" and the point where the project Foo maintainers actually take the code and put it into their software. Just so you can get an idea, here's a short example...

      Let's say I find a bug in project Foo. It's been giving us fits at work for a while, and we finally tracked it down. After some research, experimentation and testing, I've got a fix for the bug, and we build a version of project Foo that we can use without the hassles we were dealing with originally.

      Now I've got to convince the Responsible People in the company that the stuff we did for project Foo wasn't part of the company's core intellectual or business property. In other words, it has to be something that's more or less completely useless to my current employers in order for them to consider giving it away. Makes sense, right? As time goes on, and more and more people come to understand OSS and how they can benefit from it, making your case for contributing gets easier and easier... but it still needs to be done.

      OK, I've convinced the boss to let me contribute. Now I need to figure out who at project Foo I should contact in order to talk about giving them the change. Believe it or not, this isn't always easy, especially if you're looking at a larger project with a number of maintainers. In that case, just figuring out who to talk to can take some time. Once you get past that, though, you have to figure out how you're going to contact them - finding email addresses for some maintainers is not a simple proposition.

      Some projects bypass this sort of thing by having a bug system in place, where external users can file bug reports against a project, and include their code changes as a suggestion on how to solve the problem. While this solves the initial contact problem in a lot of cases, it can raise it's own problems. Some projects have bug databases, but don't allow just anyone to file bugs in them. Other project have bug databases that apparently go largely unused - submitting a bug there is something like tossing a random pebble into a bottomless pit. It will be a long, long time before anybody even notices it's there.

      In any case, you hit the next problem - communication. Whether it's by email, or a mailing list, or a web forum, or comments in a bug tracking database, you've got to interact with the people who maintain the project. You;ve got to convince them that the bug you've fixed is, indeed, a bug. Unless you're really skilled or lucky, or your change is truly trivial, you'll probably end up modifying your contribution at least a little bit - to match the programming style of the project, to clean up some code that Joe Developer didn't feel comfortable with, to add some comments and/or documentation of your changes... whatever. You're probably going to end up going back and forth a couple of times, even if you tried hard to get all those things right in the first place.

      Not to mention that you're probably going to be asked to work agains the latest and greatest version (head of line) of the code for project Foo. You may have fixed a bug in Foo 1.0, but they're getting ready to release Foo 1.1. The changes you made to Foo 1.0 may require some reworking in order to fit in with the other changes that have already gone in to make Foo 1.1 possible. And if project Foo has a complicated build process, it may take you a while just to get to the point where you can build the old, buggy software yourself.

      Overall, though, working against head of line isn't all that hard. However, before someone will accept your code, they probably want some reassurance that you've actually, you know, tested it. Depending on the bug, the software, and the environment it needs in order to run, that may mean anything from "run this command, and you'll see that it's fixed" to "Setting upa virtual machine, installing and configuring a base operating system, installing and configuring support software, and then getting it into precisely the right state to show that it doesn't crash now when it used to crash before."

      So. Identify problem. Generate a fix. Convince boss to let you give it back. Locate maintainers. Convince maintainers that there is a bug. Submit suggested changes. Set up a build environment to build the new software with your changes. Set up a test environment to verify that your changes fix your problem, and don't create new ones. Get feedback on your changes. Change your changes, then change the changes to your changes, until everyone is satisfied with what you've got. Contribute change to the project, and bask in the glow of a job well done.

      As you can see, there's actually a lot of work that goes on after the "generate a fix" step. Remember that the next time you're wondering why "someone doesn't just fix it" - the real fix is just the first step in a long process. If you're a project maintainer, ask yourself what you can do to help minimize that time and effort commitment on the part of those who really want to contribute.

      Then bask in the glow of a job well done.